Kleptocracy Weekly: September 8, 2017

New KI report: In How Non-State Actors Export Kleptocratic Norms to the West, Ilya Zaslavskiy explores the historical development of Eurasia’s corrupt authoritarian regimes; the methods by which their proxies infect Western elites with corrosive values and practices; and the potential cost of America’s failure to counteract the civilizational threat of globalized corruption. “The truth is that the West has largely failed to export its democratic norms and is instead witnessing an increasingly coordinated assault on its own value system.”

Azerbaijani Laundromat: A major investigation revealed how Azerbaijan’s corrupt elite laundered $2.9 billion through the UK to silence criticism and buy influence. The schemes involved a string of anonymously-owned shell companies, absent signatories, and sham addresses. Pressure is growing on the UK government to open an inquiry, and the case has refocused attention on “Caviar Diplomacy” at the Council of Europe. Luxury lifestyles are paid for by robbing the poorest Azeris, writes Khadija Ismayilova. (OCCRP, Guardian)

Anonymous companies: The case for ending anonymous shell companies ispacked with unsavory examples from Russia and North Korea, write Stefan D. Cassella and Michael Zeldin. If the Trump administration is serious about fighting crime and terror, ending corporate anonymity should be its priority, writes Jodi Vittori. (CNN, CFR)

Schröderization: “Long before Donald Trump was fawning over Putin (publicly anyway), Schröder had established himself as Europe’s leading Putin apologist…” KI Advisory Council member Jeffrey Gedmin on a certain type of Western leader. (American Interest)

Iran/Turkey: A New York court charged a former Turkish economy minister with masterminding a sanctions-dodging money laundering scheme for Iran while in office. (SDNY)

Russian interference: Facebook found that a Russian operation spent $100,000 on advertisements promoting divisive messages during the U.S. presidential campaign. (Reuters)

China: A Chinese billionaire who has rattled Beijing by exposing high-level corruption applied for asylum in the U.S. (NYT)

North Korea: “The Trump administration should work on becoming a credible financial threat to [North Korea]. Only then will the United States be in a position to negotiate from a position of strength,” writes Sung-Yoon Lee. (NYT)

1MDB: Foreign witnesses in the 1MDB case are too scared to talk to the FBI, fearing retaliation. Hosting Malaysian PM Najib Razak (who is implicated in the case) at the White House next week is a setback for the rule of law, writes Josh Rogin. (Bloomberg, WaPo)

Freeports: Inside Geneva’s Freeport, where “masterworks sit unseen and untouched in high-security vaults, alongside archaeological treasures, gold bars, diamonds, weapons and rare vintage wines – their owners waiting for them to appreciate in value, or, in less savoury cases, to hide them for a time.” (Aeon)

KI news: KI welcomes Michael Mandelbaum, Minxin Pei, Janine Wedel, Andrew Wedeman, Michael Weiss, Margaret Whitehead, and Ilya Zaslavaskiy to its Advisory Council.

Upcoming Events

Curbing Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing
Bipartisan Policy Center (Washington, DC)
September 12, 2017, 9:00 a.m.

The Globalization of Venality: Kleptocracy’s Corrosive Impact on Democracy
National Endowment for Democracy (Washington, DC)
September 18, 2017, 4:00 p.m.

Compiled by Nate Sibley